Whitehaven icon Hazel Moore shares reflections as she becomes one of the first two recipients of the Whitehaven Holiday Marketplace Community Award. (Photo: Gary S. Whitlow/GSW Enterprises)

The 2021 Whitehaven Holiday Marketplace served up more than just great eats. 

The week-long annual celebration, which kicked off on Sunday (Nov. 14), culminated in the presentation of two Community Award recipients, who have made significant contributions to the Whitehaven community.

“We started a brand-new tradition, which will be a part of our Holiday Marketplace,” said founder of the I Love Whitehaven Neighborhood and Business Association, Pearl E. Walker. 

“Ms. Hazel Moore and the late Mr. Lawrence Johnson were inaugural recipients of this year’s honors. We plan to make the award presentation an integral part of this annual event.”

Spencer Johnson, the son of the late Lawrence Johnson, received his father’s Whitehaven Holiday Marketplace Community Award. (Photo Tyrone P. Easley)

Every year, the Holiday Marketplace spotlight shines on Whitehaven businesses and reminds everyone to join Whitehaven residents in spending holiday dollars with community businesses. 

The Whitehaven Holiday Festival runs in conjunction with Whitehaven Black Restaurant Week. Both events are planned annually during “I Love Whitehaven Week.” The Whitehaven parade also has been an important component of this week, but the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented the parade from happening for the past two years.

“The parade did not happen for the second year,” said Walker. “We didn’t have it last year because of the global pandemic. This year, we were able to sponsor the Holiday Marketplace. And for that, I am grateful.”

Moore expressed a sense of honor for the Whitehaven Community Award.

“I started off Downtown at The Peabody and Goldsmith’s as a hairstylist,” said Moore. “Then, I moved from Downtown to the Bonro Shopping Center in Westwood. “As the first Black business owner, things weren’t very good sometimes. I had a desire to want to see some things change. So, I got involved with politics and community leaders.

“Rev. James Netters was working in the Westwood community to make it what it should be, and (the late Tennessee state representative) Teddy Withers was running for elected office. I worked to help him get elected.”

Moore moved to the Whitehaven community two years later. Things with African Americans in the community weren’t any better.

But a shift change was taking place. White Whitehaven residents were moving east to Hickory Hill and African Americans were moving into the community. Moore continued her activism and also made a name for herself as an avid business woman and community leader.

“My hair salon became a meeting place where people came to get information,” said Moore. It was a hub of community life. Then, Whitehaven residents began to call me the mayor of Whitehaven. I guess the salon was my mayor’s office.”

Johnson, owner of Lawrence Johnson Realtors Inc., died in May of 2020 from COVID-19 complications, but the Johnson family was on hand to receive his award.

“My dad always lived in Whitehaven,” said his son, Spencer Johnson. “He grew up right there on Whitehaven Lane, with pigs in the back yard and everything. That was back when Whitehaven was still the country. He attended Geeter High School.”

Spencer Johnson, who now works in the realtor’s office, said it was an honor for the community to recognize the contributions of his father after all these years.

“I saw dad do so much for people,” said Johnson. “And he did so much because he loved the work. He had a passion for it. He loved helping people buy homes, who had some issue that hindered them. 

“Dad would use his relationships with finance companies and banks to make home ownership possible for these people.”

Johnson said he is doing everything he can to make sure the legacy of his father continues through the office Lawrence Johnson started decades ago. Agents at the office are still big proponents of home ownership and they try to help everyone to that end, Johnson said.

Walker said, “This year we honored two very worthy icons in our community… There will be opportunities next year and the year after for us to honor those who continue the work of making Whitehaven a great place to live and work for all its residents.”

This year’s eateries participating in Black Restaurant Week included: Bala’s Bistro, Millbranch Wings & More, Da Zone, Da Rib Shack, Lucky Chow, Muggin Coffee House, Trap Fusion and Uncle Lou’s.